As the date of my retirement approached (June 30th) I flurried to put work affairs in order; completed tasks, packed my office, and tried to be in as good a place as I could envision myself being. I didn’t get everything done but was assured by my co-worker that there would not be any grudges held for what I didn’t get done. I walked away feeling slightly guilty but thought I was ready for whatever came next. I wasn’t.
It was that moment when you let go of the known and the wind lifts you, and you realize you are airborn. Your flight appears to be somewhere between the flying nun and forest gump’s feather. Someone has cued music and you are fully aware you have absolutely no control. That’s when you realize, or more importantly remember, that God has control… so you take a deep breath… and sail away to your next adventure.
The month has been an unpredictable swirl of occurrences: a quiet stay-at-home 4th of July weekend, a lovely visit with an old friend, 5 days on Madeline Island teaching about early art in America, dinner with another old friend, and a surprise loss of 10 days quarantining with Covid – making me miss a family reunion. I spent my down time trying to get post retirement medical coverage locked in and doing two paintings – a commission work for a friend and one for myself. Whew.
Today is my birthday. I am planning to go out among the population but there’s a week left to the month so I’m checking my seat belt. Retirement is an adventure to be sure, but I’m ready… I think?
For this last Saturday of November I am pleased to highlight several of my themed greeting cards. The first photo is a selection of landscape scenes that I have painted and made available for writing notes to friends and family. Be it a lover of winter or fall at the river’s edge, or even the stones of Craig na Dun for the Outlander travelers in your life, this group is generalized for use all year round.
The second photo is a series themed for the Scottish Holiday season — Hogmanay. Each of these notecards have the historical attributes for the images written on the back to provide background to the paintings used.
All of my greeting cards are blank inside for your personalized message and comes with an envelope. All are individually packaged in a protective plastic sleeve. Find them in the Sales Gallery for purchase.
It is the next Saturday in November and just as I promised, I have a new series of great gichlee prints available in my Sales Gallery. You might not have noticed my new series of original oil on canvas board images of animals that I have been painting and adding to the Original Paintings-Animal category over the last several months. These paintings are inspired by the book series Outlander by author Diana Gabaldon and perhaps somewhat influenced by the Starz productions of those books to some degree, as well. These fabulous co-stars, and divas in their own right, are certainly vital to the cohesiveness of the stories (as they are quick to attest) and much less hindered by those performance copyright restrictions that may prohibit me from painting the human actors in the productions.
Have fun! Look for these characters as you read the books and perhaps recognize the talented actors who portray them as you tune in to the television series each season. Have a favorite? The prints are sized to fit in the openings of the standard 5″ x 7″ ready-made mattes found at your local craft or hobby store.
I could tell that September was trying to set a new pace for fall but in my naivete I somehow thought it would settle into one that was a bit more realistic. Not so.
October found me trying to triage tasks and events with hopes of getting everything done before weather changed. My task lists were comprised of preparing the house and yard for fall, getting a lot of art ready for a show in early December and holiday shoppers. I was limited to the hours I am not already committed to my day job and I tend to forget – that is not many hours and it’s dark by the time I get off. Eventually I found myself literally picking what was going to just remain undone and rationalizing to be ok with that.
Now it’s November. The freezing temps choose the close of yardwork. Some storms are up on windows, but not all. There aren’t enough daylight hours in my day but I am happy to say that each evening I am signing and packaging art prints. Yesterday I launched a limited edition of the landscape, Appalachian Vista in the Sales Gallery. In forthcoming Saturdays I will reveal open edition prints of an exciting new collection of images, a selection of holiday cards, and a pre holiday sale.
I am beginning to get some semblance of order and pace established and look forward to spending more time with you here.
That’s a question that I would never again answer flippantly. If I have learned nothing else from the past year and a half it would be that no one can predict what will happen next, and speaking thoughtfully and truthfully has value beyond measure. It has been incredibly hard, even debilitating and life changing for so very many people. It is not easy to find anything good to say about the affect of a worldwide health crises, but despite all of the negative aspects, I must say that I am now being able to identify some positive effects it has had on me.
Knowing that I had to think about all of my actions, all of my words, and all of my intents, made me a more careful and thoughtful person. I may not have taken the time or I may have procrastinated making the changes that I was forced to make. Yes, we had to wear masks to keep from infecting each other with this evil virus. Yes, the restrictions affected our ability to move freely in society as we worked collectively and selflessly to control the spread. It also slowed me down and made me take the time to evaluate myself, my aspirations, my selfishness, and the impact that I have on everyone around me through my opinions and my actions. I also became more aware of these impacts from others.
This time has helped me take my relationship with my sweetheart to a deeper level, and I am heartwarmed and grateful. We have played together and talked together and dreamed together like new lovers. The painting above is just one of dozens I have captured of places from our driving adventures.
My art has also become more important for me. I am painting more, maturing and evolving faster, and becoming better in a way I might not have been able to do if I hadn’t been slowed down drastically. I am painting broad subject matter, and experimenting with color, style, and method. I am always learning and growing now and increasingly optimistic that I will eventually be recognized. The painting below is an oil study I’ll call, “Breakfast”.
Later in the year I will be taking my art history knowledge to a public event (Platteville, Wisconsin) setting up original work at an outdoor art fair (Greenwich Villiage Art Fair in Rockford, Illinois), and showing at an Outlander Convention (Thru the Stones in Davenport, Iowa).
Are you OK? Yes, I believe I am. Am I different? Yes, I believe I am that as well and I am grateful for the good changes I am now undergoing. It’s been a tough year but it’s time to breathe, celebrate life’s riches, and move forward. I am OK and I believe I will just keep getting better.
No one, especially not an artist, can ever say that they have become who they are without the influence of everything and everyone around them. It is a continual evolution, and I have to say there are times when it’s more and less evident in my life, but it is always rewarding!
You have walked with me here lately and heard me talking about conversations with friends and fellow painters, going for drives, and feeling like I’m going through some growing pains. My life experiences, the people in my life, and the day to day challenges or joys, accumulate. Paintings are literally the tip of the iceberg of what is churning inside. When I am having a growth spurt my life can appear blurry, and as those iceberg tops that reveal some kind of inner movement pop up, they can leave a narrative that looks different and fractured and hard to explain. Let me simplify. It is just life. With visual artists, it just presents as evidentiary images of processing.
As a child I was influenced by illustrators like NC Wyeth and Wesley Dennis. As I grew up and explored the art world I admired artists like Monet and his muted pastels, and Kandinsky with his saturated color and they, too, added to growing influences. As each piece come together over passing years I could feel the collecting bits and could see the shifts and the aggregating. I’ve been admiring my plein-aire friend’s gestural and impressionist style recently, but know that it is his style. I have admired Andrew Wyeth’s loose illustrative work, but that’s his style as well. By admiring other artists I find bits that speak to me in that moment of my growth and it influences me. It is important for me to reach out and explore and play and let those influences fold in with all of the subtlety and nuance of a novice baker folding in new ingredients to the bowl.
Yesterday was an absolutely lovely day. I began the day by painting the cornfield in the studio, and then we went for a ride in the afternoon to fill the car with gas, visit friends, deliver a painting, and take pictures – both on the drive and at our friends house. There was so much inspiration. There will be so many images from yesterday that will emerge on canvas over time. This morning I sat in my studio listening to big band music blare on Pandora, thought about some of the wonderful horses, birds and scenes I had seen yesterday, and thought about how hard it is to photograph animals because they’re always in a blur of movement. One feral rooster seemed to follow us around, making all kinds of noise while we tried to have a conversation in the barns. I couldn’t help but think about an Aunt’s suggestion that I paint chickens and a friend who has done so recently. I had, afterall, painted my brother’s chicken, Porky, last year.
So while Ray was cooking breakfast, I painted. The relaxing day we had, influenced me. I found myself letting my recent conversations with Griffing, Brauer, Rodgers, and James further influence me. My own past watercolor sketches, Kandinsky’s raging color, Lon’s gestural energy and a whole slug of personal history influenced me. My work will continue to evolve, just as I will. For those who are concerned that my work is swinging all over, keep in mind that we are an aggregate of all kind of influences in everything we do and everything we are. It is whether we choose to keep anything, how much we choose to integrate, and if in fact we actively choose to reject that can be attributed to influence. The resulting person we find ourselves is directly influenced by our gift from God, that being, choice.
I encourage you to play some big band music, thank Kandinsky, and enjoy this playful painting – an 11″ x 14″ oil on canvas titled, The Feral Rooster Strut.
Loading the pallete and getting ready to hit the road to a working show. I love events like this. I am on my way to a historical trade fair this weekend in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where I will put my art up on display, showing friends and patrons many new works that have been done in the past year. I will have a canvas on the easel that I can be working on and talking with people about. This is business but so enjoyable that it’s a win-win for me. Perhaps I’ll see you there?
This morning has been so relaxing. It has been enjoyable sitting at my easel painting and thinking about friends on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It’s delightful to me that while painting I can transport myself in my mind to particular moments in time. For those of you, my friends, who were in the encampment at the Grand Portage National Monument in August of 2019, you will recall the evening when the storm blew up quickly resulting in a lovely double rainbow. It’s been rare for me to be able to see both ends of a rainbow in my life, and most assuredly I had never seen the rainbow reflect off water like that, almost creating a circle. Circles are everywhere in our lives from repetitian within our visual spheres to our relationships with people, and are most certainly demonstrated in our paths of life.
Thank you for circling back to see how this painting turned out today, and thank you for walking the circles of my life with me.
Feel free to send me a comment about the work, or that day, or our walk together.
Laying out a new painting is truly an exercise of craft – the pleasure of color and canvas and paint. When I work I look at the photographs I took and revisit the time, revisit the place, and think about all of the emotions involved in that moment. I can hear the sounds and smell the smells or feel the excitement of the people around me. These things and more help me add the right extra elements to a painting to make it work.
For those who were present at this time and place last summer you might recognize what I have begun to lay out. I’ll post the finished work so comment then and let me know if I captured the moment as you remember it.